It’s finally spring in Arizona and temperatures are hitting enviable levels for travelers looking to shake off the late-winter snowy blues. From spring training baseball to daylong hiking trips to early morning tee times, Arizona’s tourism season is in full bloom. In fact, the Phoenix area saw about 23 million visitors in 2017 with a $15 billion economic impact, and the trend is expected to continue.
A February report released by the City of Phoenix Aviation Department shows passenger traffic hit a total of 3,551,405 passengers flying into or out of the airport. This is a 2.6 percent increase compared to February 2018. The number of plane landings only went up one percent, hitting 14,598 flights coming in from other cities. Every month since September 2018, Sky Harbor has seen consistent year-over-year growth like this and reported its highest passenger traffic numbers in history for the year.
So, what gives? Is it the many different sporting events? Weather? Outdoor fitness benefits? All of the above and more as Sky Harbor has been ushering in new international flight destinations.
“Sky Harbor is always interested in reaching new markets, and the introduction of international nonstop service to London by American Airlines is our most recent foray into service expansion,” Greg Roybal, spokesperson for Sky Harbor Airport, said. “American is not only inaugurating service to London on March 31, 2019, but has already extended it to be year-round, not seasonal. This is on the heels of another international carrier, Condor, offering nonstop service to Frankfurt, Germany May through October.”
According to the report, all of Sky Harbor’s largest carriers, including American, Southwest, United, and Delta, recorded higher numbers of total passengers compared to the same month last year.
The American Airlines flight service to London has opened the door to more travel between Arizona and other parts of the world, adding to the state’s emphasis on connecting with international travelers and businesses. The new flight will provide more than 120 connections from London’s Heathrow and from Sky Harbor to more than 80 onward destinations on American throughout North America. This comes on the heels of Southwest Airlines announcing its cross-Pacific hop options to send travelers to and from Hawaii.
Numbers for March have not yet been calculated, but it’s safe to expect they will be larger with the influx of baseball fans from all over the country and breaks in school.
“Historically, March is the busiest month at Sky Harbor. There is a wide variety of events in the Valley in March that bring many visitors here: Major League Baseball Spring Training, NASCAR events, and spring break are popular traveler activities,” Roybal said. “Summer months are also strong travel periods because summer vacations are consistently popular times to travel. Sky Harbor passenger numbers are repeatedly strong because of the healthy local traveler base.”
Sky Harbor is also making moves when it comes to accommodating the push for more travelers. Currently, the airport is in the final phase of a Terminal 3 Modernization Program, which will provide travelers a more efficient way of getting through the terminal. Plus, added ticket counters and baggage-handling capacity will be offered soon as well as a new South Concourse. And for the actual traffic itself coming in to the airport (i.e. cars, buses, ride-sharing) the PHX Sky Train is being extended to connect directly with the nearby rental car location, which will eliminate the shuttle buses.